By Carol Masshardt
At one of the busiest four corner intersections in South Boston rests the lovely and peaceful coffee shop, Esthetic Bean. In a community loved by those from many generations to newcomers, Julia Kotlinska joined the ranks when she moved to Boston and then bought her special spot at 16 Prebble St. in September 2021.
“I came from my home country of Ukraine eight years ago and lived in Key West, Florida, but I knew when I visited Boston that I had to be here. I loved it from the first moment. There is old architecture and history but also new. I like the weather, and the people have been especially great,” she said.
The small space is filled with carefully arranged teas, specialized coffees, attentively constructed sandwiches, soft music, and flowers with a few seats by the window and tables outside with a decidedly urban view. It transcends the interior design found in many coffee shops and seems to reflect Julia’s special vision and experience.
“In Ukraine we have a house in a village, where my parents are staying now, in the western part of the country near Poland. It has a garden, and my mother loves it there. It’s a Ukrainian thing-we love flowers! When the war started, my customers knew I loved flowers, and sent sunflowers and cookies, and others asked how they could help,” she said.
Julia Kotlinska, 36, had a successful life in Ukraine, graduating from Khmelnitsky Economics University and proceeding to teach marketing. She learned English in school and manages to traverse both of her countries.
“Ukraine is a nice, modern country with excellent food, art, and people. It is twelve centuries old, and the history is everywhere. I am proud to be a Ukrainian,” she said. In the past three months, her life has changed, and she wakes up in the middle of the night plagued by images of a place and people to whom she is deeply rooted. “It is lost time for me and other Ukrainians, but my family is alive at least,” she said. Kind and focused, she has an extraordinary ability to cherish her everyday experiences while processing a devastating situation in the country where her family still lives.
In addition to starting a business in a transitional area during a persistent pandemic, she admits it has not always been easy. “The winter was tough, and in spring an umbrella from outside was stolen and trash put in the planters, but really, everyone is amazing,” she said. “I love my customers. Many live right here, and I know their dogs and stories, and they are kind and supportive. I put love into this, and I get so much back. I am extremely happy here.”
With her boyfriend, Henriquez, she spends time when not at work attending Ukrainian events and trying to sustain an enduring attitude of calm and gratitude. She also imagines, someday, a bigger space, and thinks about colors and, of course, flowers and food selections and the best of coffee. In June 2022, there seem to be tears behind Julia Kotlinska’s sparkling eyes but never a loss of determination. She is a special woman who delights in devoted customers and fresh coffee and treats at this no-longer forgotten intersection.
(Julia welcomes a hello at 16 Preble St; and has suggestions for support of Ukraine if asked. Carol Masshardt can be reached at email@example.com).